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Grandparents are a popular target for scammers
Don't fall victim to a scam this Holiday season (or ever!)
“Hello, this is your granddaughter,” was how Mark Katz of southwest Wisconsin was greeted one evening after picking up his ringing home phone. Katz was a little surprised by the soft Midwestern female voice on the other line. “I was slightly disoriented by the call, because I only have two granddaughters and one is three and the other 35, but the caller would not tell me which granddaughter it was. So I started to think it was simply a wrong number,” Katz said the call went on like that, a back and forth of “who is this?” and “Oh you know which granddaughter this is!” before Katz simply hung up.
It wasn’t until he alerted his wife of the call did he realize, he was nearly a victim of a “Grandparents Scam.”
Although the holidays are upon us and good tidings should be too, news of Grandparent Scams continue to grow.  
Family Emergency Scams or “grandparent scams” are an increasingly popular avenue that scammers across the globe use to target  families. Dealing with these types of calls can leave individuals feeling threatened and frightened.
Fennimore has not been left untouched by this nation-wide occurrence. Police Chief Chris French notes that the department continues to receive ongoing calls from residents who have been victims of scams or near victims.
“It is common for those doing the scams to claim that their grandchild is in some form of trouble,” explained Fennimore Chief of Police Chris French. “It is also typical in their call to say that the grandchild has caused some sort of car accident in which the other person has been harmed.”
According to the Wisconsin Department for Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) “A fraudster will call a potential victim out of the blue and claims to be a relative (often a grandchild) that is in a bind and in immediate need of money.  The scammers often claim that they are traveling abroad and were arrested or in an accident. They need money wired immediately (or need numbers from a prepaid debit card or gift card such as Itunes) in order to get out of jail, to be discharged from a hospital or to pay some other legal fees.  The scammer asks the potential victim to keep the call a secret from law enforcement and other relatives.”
If you have received a call that may have been a scam or you feel you are potentially a vulnerable person who might be targeted, keeping a level head is important.
“Verify anything you are being told by contacting another family member to see if they know where the grandchild or family member in question is,”  French said. “All liability claims should be settled by insurance or an attorney, not with cash over the phone. Don’t let emotions, panic or confusion lead to a bad result.”
French encourages anyone who may have been scammed to contact their banks or other financial institutions to see if the money transfers can be stopped.
“These types of crimes are VERY hard to investigate as they usually involve scammers operating in other states or even other countries,” French said. “It is very important for people to talk to their elderly family members to help prepare for this and other types of crime.”
The DATCP also suggests that families develop a plan when they may be traveling for the holidays or otherwise.
“This simple and important tool can help relatives detect the legitimacy of an emergency phone call and give them tools to check the status of the traveler,” the DATCP news reports. “A family plan should consist of a travel itinerary that includes contact information for accommodations or transportation services, a plan for regular  or quick check ins, a code word phrase that would be expected in any true emergency call and open family communication to verify the safety of the family member.”
DATCP also offers these tips if you feel you have received a potentially fraudulant emergency phone call:
•Resist the pressure to act immediately.
•Do not wire money to strangers or provide your bank or credit card account numbers
•Do not give out any personal information or confirm anything that is told to you.
•If you cannot reach a family member and are unsure of what to do, call the Bureau of Consumer Protection (800-422-7128) or your local police department on their non emergency line; Fennimore Police 822-3215,

•Remember that this scam is not exclusively dependent upon the grandparent/grandchild relationship-scammers could also claim to be a different relative (a niece, a nephew, for example) or a family friend.